The view from Vancouver...
Samuelsson's signing sure to have ripple effect
The Sedin twins are used to going into an NHL season not knowing who is going to be their right winger. It’s only July, but they already have two.
Jim Jamieson, The Vancouver Province, July 4, 2009
The Sedin twins are used to going into an NHL season not knowing who is going to be their right winger.
It’s only July, but they already have two.
It probably won’t play out quite that way, but that’s one of the reasons the Vancouver Canucks went after Mikael Samuelsson right away when the free-agency window opened on Wednesday.
The versatile winger, who spent the last four seasons in Detroit, took a day to mull multiple offers before accepting the Canucks’ three-year, $7.5-million contract, announced on Friday.
Based on the Canucks’ remaining cap space of about $7.21 million and the need to sign five more players, there appears to be insufficient money to bring Mats Sundin back.
But don’t let the numbers fool you. The Canucks are willing to make it happen even if it means making other moves to get back under the cap.
The Canucks like the 32-year-old Samuelsson because of his skill set — he’s big, he’s fast and he can shoot the puck — but also because he played on a line with Daniel and Henrik for the gold-medal-winning Swedes at the 2006 Olympics.
That’s not likely to be the case next season — as Alex Burrows will be the incumbent there — but you can expect the right-handed shot to get a lot of time with the Sedins on power plays. The Canucks also were attracted by the fact Samuelsson can play the point on the power play — he was a fixture there on Detroit’s second unit — and has a bomb for a shot.
And he’s not afraid to use it. Samuelsson was 24th in the NHL in shots last season, with 257, in only 15:22 of average ice-time per game. He averaged 16 goals and 39 points in his four seasons in Detroit.
Samuelsson, who played on the second and third lines in Detroit, said he had a number of offers but chose Vancouver because of a contract offer that more than doubled his $1.2 million salary of last season and a chance to be in a more offensive top-six role.
“It was to hopefully get more ice time and get more opportunities offensively,” said Samuelsson, who also knows Darcy Hordichuk and Roberto Luongo from his time in Florida.
Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning said the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder will get a prominent role.
“Certainly, we see him as a top six,” said Henning. “He’s a right-hand shot, which we love about him; his familiarity with the twins; he’s great on the power play; he’s got a great shot. There’s a lot of pluses.”
Henning said Samuelsson’s age — he’ll turn 36 in the final season of his deal — isn’t an issue.
“He’s in phenomenal shape,” said Henning. “He was one of their top-conditioned athletes.”
Clearly, Detroit coach Mike Babc0ck is sorry to see Samuelsson go in what was essentially a salary-cap squeeze. The Wings had offered him a multi-year deal for $1.5 million but it was too little, too late.
Here's what Babc0ck said about him during the Chicago series this year:
“Sammy’s one of these guys that’s a way better player than he believes. If he had the confidence in himself that some of these other guys do he’d be a high-end NHL player. Right now he’s just a good NHL player.’’
Just what ripple effect Mikael Samuelsson’s signing causes in the Canucks’ roster pool has yet to play out.
The addition of Samuelsson gives Vancouver a very credible second line, along with Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra, and some interesting options on the power play.
It also brings the number of players signed to NHL contracts for next season to 18 (11 forwards, six defencemen and one goalie), for a salary-cap hit of about $49.6 million.
That leaves Vancouver about $7.2 million below the cap ceiling of $56.8 million. However, it doesn’t include the expected salaries of unsigned-but-qualifed restricted free agents Kyle Wellwood, Jannik Hansen and Shane O’Brien. That trio made about $2.5 million between them last season.
Those numbers suggest it’s going to be tough to sign Mats Sundin and fill the other roster holes, a No. 5 defenceman and a back-up goalie, while staying under the cap.
But the Canucks are likely to have more roster moves in mind. They have 11 forwards signed and will probably carry 13 in the regular season. Once Wellwood and Hansen are signed, that leaves no room for the expected inclusion of Cody Hodgson or the possible addition of Sundin.
Something has to give.
And you can expect it will.